Get Elite Upgrades On Virgin America Planes As Of April 25, 2018

Alaska Airlines and Virgin America are nearing the end of their integration later this month. Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America closed in December 2016, and as usual, it takes a while for operations to be integrated.

Alaska and Virgin America have been on a single operating certificate since the beginning of the year, which means that as far as the FAA is concerned, the airlines are already one. Then as of April 25, 2018, all Virgin America flights will have Alaska flight numbers, meaning that the airlines will become one as far as the booking process goes.

Alaska Airlines & Virgin America tails

The next major project is the two airlines streamlining their onboard experience. They started this recently by adjusting their first class catering, and going forward, the two airlines will be introducing a common first class product.

Anyway, this brings me to something that was perhaps completely obvious to others, but that I hadn’t processed fully in my mind. Best I can tell Alaska hasn’t ever explicitly published this, which is something you’d think they would do.

Since Virgin America planes will have Alaska flight numbers as of April 25, 2018, elite members will be eligible for complimentary upgrades on all Alaska flights, including those operated by Virgin America planes:

  • Historically Virgin America has offered Main Cabin Select, which is their extra legroom economy with enhanced service, including unlimited free drinks and snacks; going forward these seats will be Alaska’s Premium Class, so elite members will be able to select these in advance for free
  • Alaska elite members will be eligible for complimentary upgrades to first class on Virgin America planes, though those planes only have eight first class seats, so upgrades will be really tough to come by

Virgin America’s current economy cabin

For the most part this is great news. Right now Alaska has a pretty standard first class product.

Alaska’s current first class seats

Virgin America has much more spacious recliner seats, which are far superior to what Alaska offers. Being able to get complimentary upgrades on these planes will be awesome. Unfortunately upgrades will also be tough, since there are only eight seats in first class.

Virgin America’s current first class seats

Later this year we should see Alaska start to reconfigure planes with a new first class product that’s a hybrid between the two — it will have more legroom than Alaska’s current first class, and will even have legrests. It won’t be as spacious as Virgin America’s first class, though.

The new first class coming to Alaska & Virgin America

Is there any downside to the introduction of complimentary upgrades? It depends how you look at it. Up until now Virgin America has sold paid upgrades to first class, and elite members have had access to discounted upgrade costs. Scoring a paid upgrade on Virgin America was extremely easy. You just had to pay for it. Now you’ll have access to complimentary upgrades, though they will be much tougher to get.

To Alaska & Virgin America loyalists, which planes will you be seeking out as of April 25? Alaska’s planes for the superior upgrade odds, or Virgin America’s planes, for the superior onboard experience?

(Tip of the hat to Travel Codex)


  1. There is no guarantee that Alaska will actually open U class upgrade space on these planes. So far, Alaska has not done so.

  2. I have a flight at the end of May. As an MVP, I cannot select the Main Cabin Select for free. For SFO->ORD, it’s $89. Although I can select the non-MCS exit row for free.

  3. It will depend on flight schedules, pricing and availability of upgrades. More likely to fly Virgin routes now if more convenient. Just flew to LAS from NY through SEA on AS rather than VX metal direct, but misconnected and had to spend night in SEA. Still wound up getting upgraded the next day anyway, but it was not an immediately confirmed upgrade after misconnect. I think the biggest issue will be that one is less likely to see immediately confirmable upgrades on VX Metal.

  4. Depending on the gate agent, it looks like this is already in effect. I am an MVP member who upgraded to Main Cabin Select when checking in for my LAX-JFK flight last week. After I had boarded and was sitting in my seat, the gate agent came over to me and informed me that I had been upgraded to first class 1A. I was quite surprised—and a nice one at that because it was a redeye! I’ll be curious whether the same happens on my return flight tomorrow where there’s currently 6 open first class seats.

  5. They already have AS flight numbers. Go look up LAS-SFO if you need to.

    What happens after 4/25 is there are no more VX tickets. Everything will be in Alaska’s system, VX’s will be shut down. THAT is what makes the upgrades work.

  6. To Alaska & Virgin America loyalists, which planes will you be seeking out as of April 25? Alaska’s planes for the superior upgrade odds, or Virgin America’s planes, for the superior onboard experience?

    I expect VX planes to have the same onboard experience except for the seat.

    VX planes have a better seat in all classes. Even in Y, the plane is a tiny bit wider. VX cabins are darker, which is bad. It’s harder to see stains.

  7. I love Alaska and no matter what they do they walk on air compared to Evil American Airlines and and the Marriott SPG trainwreck who will keep on gutting/devaluing going forward
    One of the few bright spots in a sad loyalty arena

  8. @Matt
    Have you tried seat selection on the VX site? That’s where MVPs+ can pick better seats.

  9. Just booked SFO-DAL in F (traveling in mid-May) as the price was just 2x that of Y, which is totally worth it IMO for VX F. I guess there is no chance of them introducing the new F in a month. Just hoping they don’t switch the plane for my flight.

  10. I think it is safe to say that these complimentary upgrades will go to Gold 75K members (at least that’s what I’m banking on, as Gold 75K myself – that I earned from BIS miles in 2017) In the next few months I have booked with miles / cash in Y :


    All PM/VX metal. Never tried VX F.. hoping to score F on all 3 routes … cash prices for these F seats are astronomical, I don’t think many people will pay cash outright for them …

  11. *will go to Gold 75K members and that’s about it is what I meant, 8 F is such a small cabin if Gold elites got any of them I would be surprised.

  12. I took a flight on Virgin America where I got bumped to coach and coming from Alaska the seats are noticeably better on Virgin. I much prefer VX metal.

  13. How funny that the new 1st class in Alaska looks identical to domestic business on virgin Australia. Ha.

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